Microsoft on Friday released its retirement schedule for NT Server 4.0 operating system. All sales will end by July 2003, and companies will start having to pay for support.
The company stopped selling Windows NT Server 4.0 volume licences for both the Standard and Enterprise editions on 1 October this year. Client versions of NT 4.0 were also discontinued in October.
On 1 July 2002, the packaged Standard and Enterprise versions of Windows NT Server 4.0 will disappear from the retail channels and PC manufacturers will stop selling these versions together with Terminal Server Edition, which lets users log in through thin terminals. On 1 July 2003, the System Builder channel (value added resellers) will also stop selling the operating system.
Volume licensees will still be able to buy extra NT Server 4.0 licences, by "downgrading" from Windows 2000. To do this, companies have to buy a Windows 2000 licence for every NT 4.0 licence they want; Microsoft says they can later upgrade to Windows 2000 at no extra cost.
But some companies are loathe to lose their Windows Server NT 4.0 operating system, having invested a great deal of time and effort building operations around it. Even though the product is now five years old, its retirement is not universally popular.
Chris Ogg, President of Canadian consultancy Wireless Island, said a lot of companies he deals with seem to be refusing to retire Windows NT 4.0. "I did so with much regret around August, but so many companies have invested years in getting it just right," he said. "We have one client who is running software which requires Windows NT 4.0.Wwe had to buy Windows 2000 licences then install NT 4.0." Ogg said that the situation is less than ideal.
As sales of Windows NT Server 4.0 are restricted, support will also be gradually downgraded. From 1 January 2003, Microsoft will start charging for hot fixes. Hot fixes will be discontinued altogether 12 months later on 1 January 2004, at which time pay-per-incident and Premier support will also be axed. Online support is due to be stopped on 1 January 2005.
Microsoft caused something of a storm among certified engineers when it originally announced the retirement of Windows NT Server 4.0: the company said engineers would lose their MCSE titles gained under the Windows NT 4.0 track. Following intense lobbying from customers, Microsoft said it would change the certification title to include versions, so that engineers will now be designated as MCSE on Windows NT 4.0, or MCSE on Windows 2000.
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